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Post-pandemic trends

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Jeans, tracksuits and self-expression


How hybrid work is changing corporate style

Since New York is one of the world’s top fashion capitals, many fashion trends affect ordinary workers. Pant suits, blazers, ties, trousers, blouses, pencil skirts, silk, velvet and slingbacks are all styles adopted by employees, especially in corporate settings.

The rise of hybrid work in the wake of the COVID pandemic seems to be generating some new fashion trends. The casual work environment of home is changing the way people dress in the office.

Adam Some, 24, who lives in New York City’s trendy Hudson Yards neighborhood, and works in finance on a hybrid schedule, says he’s noticed a change in how people dress at work.

“I’d say I do notice a more casual environment and outfits,” said Some, who goes to the office three days a week. “We wear business casual, but we have casual days where we just wear like jeans or something, and if I’m doing a meeting on Zoom, forget it, I’m in a professional shirt with my pajamas on the bottom.”

Jennifer Means, 31, who lives in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, finds herself wearing her workout clothes more often.

“I love sweat sets and athleisure,” Means said. “I love being able to go to the gym before or even during my work day, and I feel like I’m almost more productive in my workout sets! I get to work from home with my new job, and I love it, and have started to change my style a bit since working at home.”

Means said her office allows for “more casual attire. They’re actually really relaxed and nice about what we wear to the office, since most of us work from home most days.”

In all the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in ways we understand, we may not realize just how much our personal styles have evolved as well. Maybe dressing according to our own style or feelings is the true new fashion trend.

It’s now much more common for New Yorkers to work in a hybrid format, or remotely. A fall 2023 Gallup poll found that 80 percent of Americans in remote-capable jobs were working in hybrid or fully remote roles, and the Partnership for New York City counted about 67 percent of the employees of 140 major New York employers working in the office three days or fewer.

A reduced presence in the office seems to be affecting attire, with employees shifting to a more relaxed from a formal professional style.

Carter Towler, 24, loves the dress code at his workplace. “We are encouraged to wear whatever we want and express ourselves,” said Towler, a Fashion Institute of Technology graduate who works in merchandising. Photo by Sophia Slade

That’s been the experience of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor Darryl Chamberlain, who is currently living in New York, while teaching remotely at his Ohio-based university.

“As a professor it’s pretty expected that you show up dressed professionally,” said Chamberlain, 38.“But since I teach [asynchronously] this semester, I really wear whatever I want, which usually isn’t business attire.”

Chamberlain described his personal style as, “a little bit preppy, but in a casual way. I like sweaters and jeans, maybe a button down underneath. Nothing crazy, but that’s my typical outfit on a regular day,” he said. “I also am a runner, so I wear a lot of running attire when I go out for a run.”

Many New Yorkers interviewed said they preferred to dress in their “personal style” on most days, rather than in formal business dress. This may be put down to a wish for self expression, and to live daily life in clothes they feel suit them best.

“I love fashion!” exclaimed Carter Towler, 24, a former student at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. “I work in merchandising now, and my job isn’t like other jobs: we are encouraged to wear whatever we want and express ourselves,” said Towler, who lives in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.

He’s an enormous fan of his job’s dress code – which he described as pretty much “anything goes.”

“I love it so much:we all show up in completely different styles, and it really shows who you are,” he said. “For me, I don’t think the pandemic changed this dynamic in this type of job — but I do think my style has evolved since COVID, and I think for the better even.”

About the Author

Sophia Slade

Professor: Mary D’Ambrosio
Class: Magazine Writing

I found that New Yorkers have really changed as a result of the pandemic -- and maybe we all have. Most people I interviewed said that because most of their work had shifted to either hybrid or completely remote, they are opting to dress down and ditch the traditional business attire. Business casual isn't even in their vocabulary anymore, as people collectively described enjoying the luxury of dressing down or within the realm of their own personal style more often, since going to the office is not much of a necessity nowadays. My question for the future remains: has this permanently altered what style and business attire look like and will we shift towards individuality and creative expression in the work/corporate world, or will we gradually revert back to that more traditional concept of "professional attire?"